Agencies Target Businesses in Immigration Efforts
Federal and state governments are revving up the effort against illegal immigration and are increasingly putting businesses in the crosshairs.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently sent notices to 1,000 employers nationwide alerting them that they aim to examine their records for hiring of undocumented workers, according to a CNNMoney.com report. An ICE official said the action, known as an I-9 audit, covers employers of various sizes in every state, with an emphasis on businesses that involve "critical infrastructure and key resources." ICE's action raises the total of I-9s to more than 2,300 this year, surpassing the 2010 total of 2,196.
Members of Congress also are aiming at businesses that hire illegal immigrants with a new House bill that would require employers to use an Internet-based system to check the legal status of new employees, according to Human Resource Executive Online.
Called E-Verify, the federal system currently is voluntary, except for a limited number of government contractors. Four states -- Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah -- require employers to use it or face penalties.
The Legal Workforce Act of 2011, if enacted, would require governments and large employers in industries outside agriculture to use the system within six months and small employers to comply within two years, depending on workforce size.
Many business leaders and industry experts oppose the bill, saying that E-Verify is susceptible to fraud and that the six-month deadline and other requirements are unrealistic for most companies.
"This law is a bad idea; it puts a lot of burden on small employers who don't have the technology to keep up with E-Verify changes," Sarah Buffett, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte, N.C., told HROE.
Courts also are weighing in regarding illegal immigrants and labor laws. A Florida appeals court recently reaffirmed that an employer cannot deny workers' compensation benefits to an injured employee based on that worker's legal status. In HDV Construction Systems Inc. and Gallagher Basset Services Inc. v. Luis E. Aragon, the employer and the insurer denied benefits to Aragon after he was injured on the job because he was an undocumented worker. A workers' comp judge said the company could not use that defense because it knew or should have known that Aragon was an illegal immigrant. The state's 1st District Court of Appeal upheld that decision. It also struck down a decision by the lower court that would have limited the benefits after a period of time.